Monday, 6 June 2022

Post May update - Pallid Swift etc

 A little into June, and already more to write about, but here's my #LocalBigYear writeup for the month of May. 

Starting the month on 157 and finishing strongly on 172, it was a strange month, highlighted by a couple of really good days. The highlight was undoubtedly the Pallid Swift I had go south on a pre-work early morning visit on the 18th, detailed below:

A wander around Seaton Pt, although fairly quiet, always felt like it could deliver something good, with a steady southerly passage of Swifts and Hirundines, and the odd grounded warbler. Whilst walking back to the car at 0655, I noticed a Swift coming south fairly low and on it's own. Straight away it looked a little different from the 29 Swift I'd had go past so far, and my initial looks through bins was to check it wasn't an Alpine, as it had a slower flight style and appeared bulkier: it obviously wasn't and as it was now getting close I went for the camera and rattled off some shots as it flew by. A distinct memory I have of the bird on the initial views was the flat glides, and generally less erratic motion, which then made it easier to track in my viewfinder and gain some good shots.

On checking the back of the camera, I straight away noted some features I associate with Pallid - a scaly body, brown tones and general bulkiness. Wanting to get some feedback before work and give others a chance further south, I stuck some BOC's out and drove home to get ready. Initial feedback was decent, but caveated with wanting to wait to see the processed images - understandable given the BOC's did indeed make the bird appear warmer. There's far less identification documentation on adult Pallid Swifts than juvs, and so ever since the sighting I've been delving through image banks to further my understanding - all the feedback I've received subsequently has been pro-Pallid, and subject to acceptance, it would be a first for the Boulmer area, and my first BBRC rarity find here.

Bluethroat and Firecrest:

The 16th was eyed up across the East Coast as having potential for an arrival - eastliers and rain for most of the day. A pre-work drenching whilst aimlessly wandering round Seaton Pt was fruitless for me, but Mark dug out a splendid Firecrest by the layby there, somewhere I hadn't managed to do. A bit of a pain to see for me, even more so to photograph in fairly heavy rain, but a patch tick and real scarcity up here.

The worst photo on this blog

On finishing work, news came through of a male Red-Spotted Bluethroat at Howick - after some initial messing around, it showed really well in the evening light for an appreciative crowd. A good one to get and one that I thought I would have to replace from my 2020 list this year. The one decent migrant I did get in another round of Seaton Pt was this Grasshopper which arrived the previous day, and is still present - another patch tick.

Flushed from the path initially into a small bush

Don't really like boring portraits like this normally

Howick Seawatch:

Late in the month, a couple of days of moderate northerlies drew my attention, and for Sunday the 29th in particular where rain was forecast, I reckoned a Stormie was on the cards. Having not seen one in Northumberland, I was unsure when they are first 'gettable' on a seawatch, so asked around with the general consensus being that it was a little on the early side. To maximise my chances, I elected to watch from Howick, a spot that Ben in particular has had some good days from in the past and is much higher than the anything at Boulmer itself. 

Imagine my shock when at 0538AM I picked up a Storm Petrel heading slowly north about a 1/3 out, coming in all the time. Although not mega-close, the views were actually really nice, and if my phone didn't have a cracked camera the phonescope results would have been fairly good I think.

Full 1080p recommended to see anything

As well as the Storm Petrel, throughout the morning I clocked up 9 GN Divers, 170 Manx, 4 Bonxie, 84 Scoter, 5 Goldeneye, 600+ Sanderling and an Avocet all north amongst a good other selection of species. The other highlight was a superb adult Long-tailed Skua which was tracked north from Whitburn - it wasn't all that close for me and Mark, but it was brilliant to see one with a full-on tail.

Getting fairly regular now, but still bizarre to get one on a seawatch

One of the 4 Bonxies

All 9 Great Northern Divers will full summer plumaged birds

Other notable bits:

  • Blue-headed Wagtail - a female-type flew south during a vismig on 11th May, picked up in the bins as 'interesting' coming head-on, confirmed as so from flinging the camera in it's direction.

A properly grey head with a bit of a necklace necklace stood out head on in the bins
  • Cuckoo - A patch tick singleton flew south during an evening vismig session on 19th May, mobbed by pretty much everything in the area.
  • Mandarin - It had to be done...when Stewart messaged to say there was a drake on Howick pond on 'Pallid Swift' day, and that he would kindly point it out, I popped across in the evening - certainly one I didn't think was possible in the area.
  • Quail - whilst out looking for Owls at dusk, a few notes burst out of a Barley field near Dunstan
  • Red Kite - distant bird picked up north of Longhoughton from Seaton Pt on 11th May before it dropped down.
  • Scaup - Pair north off Seaton Pt on 2nd May.
  • Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher - Female type on 17th May by the farmhouse at Seaton Pt, with the Spot Fly by Boulmer car park in the paddock.

Looking forward:

Anyone birding within 5km of Longhoughton, feel free to find any of my following, semi-realistic targets for the summer:

  • Ducks - Garganey, Long-tailed Duck.
  • Seabirds - Pom, Black Guillie, Balearic, Great Shear, Cory's, Sab's, Leach's.
  • Passerines - Garden Warbler (I'll get one I'm sure), Tree Pipit, Pied Fly, Green Woodpecker, Crossbill.
  • Waders - Ruff, Curlew Sand, Wood Sand, Little Stint.
  • Yellow-legged Gull.
  • Raptors - Osprey, Hobby, LEO.

I'm sure there's things I've forgotten from that, but they're all doable I reckon. Hopefully the first couple of weeks of June have some easterlies for things like Marsh Warbler and Red-back Shrike, and hopefully some rarities make an appearance. 

Sunday, 1 May 2022

End of April update...

Two and a half months since my last post, mostly because with the longer daylight hours, I'm trying to bird when I can.

Instead of going through everything, I'll pick out the highlights:


During awful conditions on 08 Mar on a post-work seawatch, a brute of a 1w Glauc flew N, a patch tick at the time and a real reward for heading out in the conditions.

A sense of the conditions from the pic quality

Fast-forward to Sunday 24 Apr where I had most of the day to spend on the patch. Tonnes of Gulls of all sizes were moving N, in tricky backlit conditions. I picked up a really pale immature Glauc coming N off Seaton Point before it settled on the sea to my N in-line with the sun. I had to head off, and was soon gripped by Mark who ended up having 2 different Glaucs N and an 2cy Iceland milling around. 

Glauc #1 for the day

I headed back in the afternoon, and with the tide out found it tricky to grill the northbound gulls in the haze, but did pickup a dark, heavily moulted 2cy Glauc sat on Longhoughton Steel, which promptly flew N - another new bird! I returned late evening and incredibly found 2 immature Icelands and another Glauc, this a much darker 2cy without the heavy moult.

Glauc #2...

...notice the extensive moult

Distant Iceland Gull #2, the smaller one

Pretty unprecidented stuff, and not reflected anywhere else to the north or south! Overall me and Mark think there were at least 4 Glaucs (probably 5) and 3 Icelands seen after comparing notes and pictures.

Ring Ouzel

The Boulmer area is great, but something it doesn't have a lot of is decent cover, so the chances of passerines dropping in and sticking are slim: this was demonstrated perfectly by the stunning male Ring Ouzel I had on 16 Apr. I'd done one round of Seaton Pt with nothing but a few Wheatears and Chiffs to show, and was heading back towards the carpark when a distinctive call alerted me to a Ring Ouzel dropping onto the top of the seaside hedge just north of the 'point'. I was straight away hounded by a couple of Mipits, and readjusted itself closer to me, allowing for some nice views, before shooting low across the field inland onto another hedge, before the same happened and it disappeared westwards.

Male Ring Ouzel...

...and gone

In total, this patch tick was present for no longer than a couple of minutes, so it definately shows how much must head straight inland for more cover and is missed.

Slav Grebe

I'd never seen a summer plumaged Slavonian Grebe before, and it wasn't really on my radar on the afternoon of 19 Mar: I picked up a grebe close in, and on initial views I thought Black-necked, but as it came closer I changed my mind. A nice bird to get, especially in full summer plumage, and it came on a day with my first Velvet Scoter, GN Diver and Chiffchaffs. 

Great Northern Diver

Distant Velvet speeding north

Ropey phonescope but you get the idea

Other bits and pieces (in no order):

  • Snow Bunting - several singles seen over the past couple of months, possibly all the same bird and never stopping long enough to see on the deck.

Different days, the same bird?
  • Avocet - again several records, with a pair even dropping onto the village mere before it dried up.
  • Black Redstart - I'd put plenty of miles into looking for one of these during a national influx, all for a 10 second view of a female on top of one of the cottages that I never saw again. Worth it.
Female-type Black Redstart

  • Egyptian Goose - Spending a few hours around the Aln looking for Herons and Crakes, I picked up an Egyptian Goose flying north one evening, dropping down around Foxton Bends. A real hard one to get this far north.
They all count.
  • Blue-Headed Wagtail - a bit of a letdown of a vismig on 20 Apr (given what Ross had at Budle) was highlighted by a superb male Blue-headed Wagtail south, picked up in the scope low of oil seed rape.
  • Hooded Crow - One high N on the morning of 30 Apr was nice to get out of the way.
Pretty distant, and tricky to pickup in the scope nevermind the camera
  • 'Limosa' Black-tailed Godwit? - Three Godwits on the pool by the cricket pitch on the Aln contained one much bigger, striking bird. I took some pics and sent it to some experts, but unfortunately despite looking the part grey females are just too tricky without a summer feather to be sure.

  • Owls - Thanks to some gen, I'm now just left needing Long-eared, which I'll have a search for around June.

A fly through Short-eared Owl on the Aln got lots of attention

There's been loads of other good stuff that I've either forgotten to put here or would just make the post too long. As of 30 Apr I sit on 157 for the 5km radius '#LocalBigYear' list, which is pretty good going I reckon, currently topping the Northumberland charts, though I'm sure I'll slip back as rarities get found at other sites. 

The area, vast majority of time spent around Boulmer

It's been great fun, and adding in the Aln Estuary area has opened lots of windows for species I would otherwise struggle with. Given I got to 197 in 2020 in 8 months just at Boulmer, I'm optimistly now changing my target to 215 for the 5km radius.

Here's all the extra pics I like:

White Wag

The semi-resident PB Brent Goose


Some of over 1300 Common Gulls N one evening

Whimbrel, Redshank and Greenshank in the Aln

A fairly late Fieldfare enjoying the Sun

Post May update - Pallid Swift etc

 A little into June, and already more to write about, but here's my #LocalBigYear writeup for the month of May.  Starting the month on 1...